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Archive for May 22nd, 2009

As expected, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved climate change legislation last night and sent it along in the legislative process. We strongly urge lawmakers to make major overhauls to this bill or go back to the drawing board.

The problem? Oil, coal and nuclear industries had far too much say in its shaping, and it shows.

Now more than ever, Public Citizen needs you to tell your representatives that climate change legislation should not be weakened by the corrupting influence of big money.

Those who say this bill is the best the legislative process can produce are wrong: The American people demanded strong climate legislation, and polluters are subverting these goals.

Public Citizen supports strong, effective climate legislation, but this bill won’t achieve it. We can talk about hoping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, but this bill won’t do it.

It creates a legal right to pollute for industries and gives away credits for free to allow companies to meet those targets without having to pay for them. That is not going to spur the kind of investments we need.

We must act fast to influence lawmakers to fix this piece of legislation. Please take action so that our voices can be heard loud and clear over those of the oil, coal and nuclear industries.

For more information about the climate change bill and how it needs to be fixed, visit our Web site and watch Tyson Slocum explain Public Citizen’s position in an interview on Democracy Now!

Take action today, and let your representatives know you want them to put interests of consumers above those of the energy industries.

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Let the news storm begin.  For those thirsting for more information on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a few recommendations:

Watch Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, weigh in on Democracy Now! — Environmental Groups See Divide over Landmark Climate, Energy Bill Weakened by Industry Lobbying

Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current takes Charlie Gonzalez to task for his efforts to weaken ACES (look for a cameo quote from our very own Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director here at the Texas office — Gonzalez bombs climate change bill

The Washington Post’s business column op-ed: Climate-Change Bill Hits Some of the Right Notes but Botches the Refrain

The Economist breaks down the Handouts and loopholes

And to close out, words from the President:

I commend Chairman Waxman and the Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee for a successful effort to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill out of their committee today. We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America. The bill is historic for what it achieves, providing clean energy incentives that encourage innovation while recognizing the concerns of sensitive industries and regions in this country. And this achievement is all the more historic for bringing together many who have in the past opposed a common effort, from labor unions to corporate CEOs, and environmentalists to energy companies. I applaud the committee for its action and look forward to signing comprehensive legislation.

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Public Citizen disappointed by process as Big Money works to weaken, kill bill

Statement by Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director, Texas Office

This evening, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed HR 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES or ACESA), sponsored by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), by a margin of 33 – 25.

We would like to thank Gene Green (D-Houston) and Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio) for their support of this step towards clean energy and saving the climate from runaway global warming. It is unfortunate, however, that they chose to weaken the energy efficiency and renewable energy sections of the bill, as stronger mandates would mean more local jobs and more savings for Texans.

They also supported giving away billions of dollars worth of carbon credits to polluters for free, despite knowing that these giveaways hurt low income households the most.

Big money was the deciding factor in this process, with the energy industry donating a total of $3.1 million on all members of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 2008 campaign cycle, with nearly $2.3 million of that going to committee Republicans, who presented nearly monolithic opposition to the bill and attempted to weaken it at every turn. Ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX) received $406,887 in campaign contributions from the energy industry, the largest amount of any member on the panel, and orchestrated the GOP opposition. Notable opposition to the bill came from Jim Matheson (D-UT), who received $103,097, Charlie Melancon (D-LA), who received $125,100, John Barrow (D-GA) who received $88,743, and Mike Ross (D-AR) who received $59,800. The first three of these received more money from the energy industry than any other Democrats on the panel, while Ross was the fifth largest recipient among Democrats.

The architects of the compromises which weakened the bill also received large contributions from the energy industry, including Rick Boucher (D-VA) who received $67,300 and was the architect of the plan to give coal-fired electric utilities nearly all of their pollution credits for free. A similar deal was struck with oil refineries, whose donations to Gene Green (D-TX) and Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) along with other energy industries was equal to $84,500 and $51,250, respectively.

Unfortunately, the bill leaves the committee weaker than it came in. It has moved to a short term reduction of CO2 emissions of only 17%, even though the research by the Nobel Prize winning IPCC shows that target needs to be closer to 30%. This bill is also potentially a budget buster, as it has moved away from President Obama’s original position of auctioning all of the pollution credits to giving away credits worth billions in revenue to industry for free. By giving away 85% of all carbon credits to industry, the Congress has also limited their ability to help low-income consumers and invest in efficiency, renewable energy, and international programs to aid lesser developed countries. Furthermore, they have added unlimited loan guarantees to the nuclear industry, even though the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated that it is likely that more than 50 percent of all nuclear loans will fail. The loan guarantees would be used to

Even worse, by giving away too many credits to special interests, we will repeat the mistakes of the European carbon market, where too many credits were given away at the outset and actual carbon reductions did not occur. Utilities still passed on “compliance costs” to their customers and prices increased, which led to the EPA’s analysis of the Waxman-Markey draft that any giveaways to industries are “highly regressive.”

A well designed cap and invest program with strong efficiency and renewable energy standards would save the average Texas household $900 per year according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. We fear that by weakening the bill, as the Energy and Commerce Committee has, this savings could evaporate.

Now that the committee process has ended, it is now the responsibility of every Texas Representative to strengthen HR 2454. The bill needs to move back to scientifically and economically based goals in order to protect consumers and create a green jobs future for every family in the country.

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